I've been feeling lately like I can't get any momentum with my riding or my horsemanship in general. Maybe this is just how my life will be right now. Maybe I need to scale back and accept that riding semi-competitively is not going to happen for me, with this horse, at this time in my life. My job is busy, stressful, and time-consuming. My horse is aging and not always eager.
Last night, after two days off due to working late, I pulled him out of the stall, tacked him up, and two minutes into our walk warmup he took a funny step and went immediately lame. I tried walking him out of it for a bit under saddle but he felt awful. I felt every single inch of both hind legs multiple times, palpated, walked and trotted him off in hand, and determined that he was off in his right hind: toe-dragging, swinging the leg to the outside, not wild about moving out, and resting it when standing.
Tried for a few minutes to walk him through it but he was uninterested, so I untacked and put him back. He was standing square-ish in his stall again and still no signs of heat or swelling or anything.
He did something like this once before, a few months ago. He worked out of it fine the next day. But after two days off, feeling the energy from my lessons with the trainer recently, I was ready to get some work done, to do a conditioning ride and build some topline and some fitness. Not to be.
I was borderline hysterical for a little while, actually, chasing my thoughts down into rabbit holes: was this something serious? is this the beginning of the end? should I retire him to be a trail horse? should I straight up retire him?
I got by with a little help from my friends, and a multigrain roll and wedge of sheep cheese from the coop, and today I am feeling resigned. Barn manager is aware and did not report that he was falling down lame out of his stall, so tonight I will go with the possibility of longeing, then hacking him out. We'll see.
But I still can't shake the thought that it might be time - if not to retire him, then to re-evaluate what I want to get out of riding him - and what would make and keep HIM happy and healthy.